She glanced out of her window, despite all efforts trying to concentrate. The crescent moon was hanging in the sky, not a star was in sight. The annoying cries of a wailing baby and the occasional barking sounds were disturbing her. A light was still on in one of the rooms of the unit right opposite hers. Maybe another poor student burning the midnight oil trying to finish the homework that never seemed to have an end, she thought to herself.She could see the television of another unit still blaring silently; probably a football frantic watching the ever-so-boring game; or maybe a tired housewife trying to keep tabs on a midnight drama after spending the day running after her children; or a night-shift worker who had just reached home and wanted to catch a break,; it might also be a lonely grandpa having trouble falling asleep; oh! Or maybe it is…
Ring! Ring! Ring! She started awake, almost falling out of her seat, having fallen asleep in front of her desk. She looked at the time, groaned, and let her head fall back onto the table. She had meant to finish at least finish her Mathematics homework, but that did not seem to be in the range of possibility now. Oh well, she would just have to skip recess, or she could always pretend that she had forgotten to bring it to school. Grudgingly, she pushed herself up from the hard and uncomfortable wooden table. How she longed to crawl under that warm cover neatly laid out neatly on her soft and cushy bed and fall back into her sweet dreams.
But that was not to be. As always, she rushed through her morning routine. A piece of bread hurriedly stuffed into her mouth would have to make do as breakfast as she made her way out of the house, almost tiptoeing trying not to make noise. Her parents were still asleep; she had not seen them last night as she had locked herself in her room trying to concentrate on her studies. Actually, come to think of it, she had barely communicated with her parents except maybe once or twice the standard questions “Have you eaten?” and “Have you finished your homework” and the standard answer “Yes.” Were her parents showing her too little care, or did they think she was responsible and independent enough?
There were too many thoughts and worries in her mind to ponder too much about this question. The most urgent one was her Mathematics homework; would she be disciplinarily punished if she did not complete it on time? Surely not, it was just a few measly sheets of paper stapled together. The worst would be scolded in front of the class. But still, that would be embarrassing, especially since Joel, the cute guy with the brownest eyes and the most dazzling smile, had transferred to her Mathematics class. Her brain was full of algebra and operation signs and cute boys as she made her way towards the school gate.
Oh, how she dreaded that step into the school campus every morning. The momentary pause a step right before the school gate occurred every time, then the continuation of brisk walking. She needed to get to class fast. Maybe she could squeeze in a little bit of time for the Mathematics homework. Or not. She sighed softly and secretly as she saw a chatty group of friends approaching her, eager to engulf and engage her in their conversation. They exchanged juicy gossips, complained about the homework and made fun of their classmates and teachers. She did not know why she did not just walk away from those people, but she felt like she had to put on a brave front to everyone. Perhaps she was so insecure inside that she did not dare to let it show, and that she just wanted to be able to fit in with everyone else.
She barely had enough time to put down her things before the bell for morning assembly reverberated throughout the school. Students and teachers everywhere put down their things at hand and dashed for the parade square. She moved her lips silently to the national anthem, not a sound coming out from her. She day-dreamed of Joel as morning assembly carried on. In a flash, she was being pushed and shoved by herds of students who were rushing for no apparent reason, since there was still fifteen minutes till lessons began. She might as well make good use of this rare spare time. Fishing out her Mathematics homework from the realms of her messy schoolbag, she started working. Her Math had never been good; even though she could practically hear her brain juice churning, she still yielded no answer. Finally, “Ah! I give up! Wrong answers are better than no answers, so I shall just guess some numbers and write it there. I swear I will do the next Mathematics homework properly.” She mused to herself.
The morning passed by in a blur. First the Geography teacher had come in late to an unrest and noisy class; then the petite Social Studies teacher who had tried unsuccessfully to quite down the boisterous class. Both had assigned heaps and mountains of homework. It looked like it was going to be another long and late night. Following right after that was Physical Education, during which she came in last in the race and did not even bother to chase after the tennis ball. Finally, it was recess. She bought a pack of Oreo cookies yet again, snuffled it down, then retreated back to the classroom. She did not need to hang around to have people keep on coming to her and asking “Come and join our table!” to which she would always shake her head politely and say that she had already made other plans; or see flaunting couples sharing their food blatantly. Plus, she could attempt to come up with correct answers to the Math questions, killing more brain cells at the same time.
In the end, it turned out that less than three-quarters of her Math class had actually bothered to finish the homework. She felt cheated, those wasted time coming up with ridiculous answers could have been better used catching up on sleep. However, the few words of praise awarded from the teacher for finishing her work was enough to makes amends. Especially since Joel was within earshot during that time. And that he had given her a slight smile when their eyes had met.
She lived in dreamland for the rest of the lessons, replaying that scene over and over again as though her mind was a faulty videotape. Such that she did not hear a word of what the teachers’ said, not knowing what was going on in class. When the school bell rang for the end of school, she snapped out of her reverie and hurriedly copied the homework form her desk mate, before rushing off. This time from school, to piano lesson. She loved music. Music clamed her mind when she was angry. Music made her happy when she was feeling down. Music took up the space in her mind when she was feeling lonely.
She played the pieces she had been dutifully practicing at home for her teacher. When she was playing the piano, she let herself be fully absorbed into it. Her body swayed to the rhythm, her fingers moved across the keyboards fluently, looking like they had lives of their own. It was as though only she alone existed in the whole world. She, the only child of two proud parents. She, a successful secondary school student. She, the person whom everyone dreamed of being friends with. She, who would one day grow up and achieve the extraordinary. She, a girl, a lady, a woman. A female. The music she played was beautiful. Just like she is.